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Diet plays a huge role in how we feel on a daily basis. I’m sure most people have experienced the annoying side effects of eating bad food whether it’s gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Some people are more sensitive to foods than others. Besides food allergies, lots of people experience poor gut health. These people might have anxiety or conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. 


This is where Low Fodmap comes in. Some people’s bodies have a harder time breaking down sugars in foods, these different sugars combine to make F.O.D.M.A.P. So, a Low Fodmap diet minimizes the intake of these sugars to hopefully lessen those annoying gut side effects. 


Fodmaps stand for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Fermentable is a category for foods that your body doesn’t recognize so they ferment in your gut and create gas. Oligosaccharides are part of fructans which are found in foods like onion, garlic, legumes and wheat. Disaccharides are found in lactose, especially in soft cheeses and yogurts. Monosaccharides are found in fructose which is in fruits like apples and high fructose corn syrup. Lastly, polyols are found in sorbitol which is in some fruits and vegetables plus artificial sweeteners. 


The creators of the Low Fodmap diet are Monash University in Australia. Their website, monashfodmap.com, is where I got most of my knowledge about the diet. I turned to the Low Fodmap diet in March after suspecting I had IBS. Once I saw a gastroenterologist, they also recommended the diet. 


Following the Low Fodmap diet is tough, I’m not going to sugar coat it. It may seem restrictive but it’s all meant to clean out your gut and get rid of foods that could trigger side effects. Usually, you strictly follow the diet for about a month. Then you eat normally except you eliminate one of the fodmap categories every two weeks. If you don’t have bad symptoms during that two week period, then that category of fodmap is probably creating your gut issues. 


There are many food groups that I stay away from on my Low Fodmap diet. Gluten, dairy, junk food, sweets and caffeine are all foods I stay away from if I’m strictly following Low Fodmap. Even though there’s lots of food I shouldn’t eat, there are still plenty I can. Lactose-free items, rice, meat, most fruits, potatoes, oats, dark chocolate and coffee. Another aspect to Low Fodmap is portion size. Certain small amounts of food are okay, but if I eat a lot of something, it might cause gut problems. This is the case for most fruits, snack foods, sweets and drinks. Everything in moderation. That’s my motto when it comes to the Low Fodmap diet. 


Besides eating food, there’s a few other parts of the Low Fodmap diet. Keeping a food journal and regularly going to Monash are two of these parts. I keep track of everything I eat in a food tracking app. I want to make an important note that I use an app that doesn’t track calories. Low Fodmap for me is about food, not calories. In addition to tracking food, I also track my bowel movements. This helps me understand if my gut is healthy or in need of some more care. I also check the Monash website for new approved foods and news related to the diet. To do all of this, I use the Monash app. It can do those three things all in one place which is convenient for me. If you’re interested in the app, it’s a couple of dollars but I promise it’s worth it. 


If you're having gut or bathroom problems, don’t suffer. The Low Fodmap diet might be a way to help you feel better.

Hannah Nelson is a senior at Penn State University, double majoring in Print/Digital Journalism and History. She enjoys Marvel movies, anything Harry Potter, books, quoting Vines and watching Tik Toks. In her free time, she is probably watching Try Guys videos on YouTube. She is passionate about mental health, women's rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.
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